Saturday, March 17, 2018

Book Review: 'Body Shop' by John Hindmarsh

California author John Hindmarsh hails from Australia writes science fiction and thrillers and technothrillers with a style that is clearly unique to his manner of word molding. He writes in series – BODY SHOP is Book 2 in his ANNIHILATION SERIES – and his other series include the four volume MARK MIDWAY Series, the trilogy THE GLASS COMPLEX, and the shingle stand alone novel SHEN ARK: DEPARTURE. He also has penned short stories of the science fiction/fantasy nature. John has written a number of short stories, all science fiction although perhaps one or two have a touch of fantasy.

News today that acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking has died makes this novel even more poignant for our attention now: Hawking had stated, "The development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." John Hindmarsh’s novel continues his examination of Artificial Intelligence, carrying that concept into the arena of Super Intelligence.

Being Book 2 of the series a brief synopsis of Book 1 is helpful – ‘Toby McIntosh is unexpectedly given control of his uncle’s business empire, managed by Darwin, a super intelligence (SI). The business is the largest manufacturer of processors, software, and robot designs, worldwide. An earthquake has devastated the West Coast. California’s Silicon Valley is draining. Bots are taking over mundane jobs. Terrorist groups are furthering social unrest. Darwin wants to prove he is more intelligent than humans. Bronwyn, a super-superintelligence has no reason to prove she is better than humans—she already knows the answer. Toby’s friends are assaulted. A brownshirt group plans to kill him. His girlfriend is kidnapped. Will Artificial Intelligence be the end of Humanity?’

The plot synopsis for this second volume is helpful - ‘What should you do when an AI says it wants a body? Agree. At some time in the near future, superintelligences will become far more powerful than we expect. The lower level intelligences – robots – will rival humans. There will be conflicts, guaranteed. Pepper Mountain is the scene of the final body build effort and Darwin almost blows the project. Literally. And it's his body. Meanwhile, Bronwyn does her own thing. The clown surfaces. Toby and Billie grow closer. Mix in politics, deadly attacks by brownshirts, add some Russian involvement, a sabotaged aircraft and you have the next stage in Darwin’s story.’

One of the many reasons John’s book works so well - the main one being that his writing is magnetizing – is his ability to relate complex concepts clearly and with a touch of lightness. But the tension remains intact – ‘It was midnight when Toby made his final check with Darwin and Bronwyn; however, neither had any news of Billie. He called his friend Rick, but there was no answer. He crashed into bed and tried to sleep. After thirty minutes, he got up and walked around some of the rooms of the apartment. He returned to his bed and tried to sleep. He couldn’t relax; his mind was in overdrive. Billie had been missing for a day, and they still had no news of her whereabouts. He got out of bed again. He walked into the living room and turned on the television. He picked up his cell phone and called Rick again. Still no answer. He watched the news for about ninety seconds and, totally restless, turned it off. He contacted Darwin with a final thought. “Yes, Toby?” Darwin responded. “You have details on the bank accounts for— what’s his name— the brownshirt leader in Washington— Flocke— George Flocke?” “Yes.” “And for the local guy, Pitera?” “Yes, I have all the details of their accounts.” “I’m suspending my embargo on destroying their financial base. Open accounts in Switzerland or Lichtenstein. As long as you can move the money on to new accounts at a later date, that’s all we need. Transfer out everything you can, from both the Washington and Los Angeles offices. Send it all around the international banking systems so no one can trace the final destination. Drain every account. Take out every cent. Leave a trail that leads to each of the other offices. Apart from that, make sure it’s impossible to trace the transfers to their eventual destinations.”

Very fine writing with enough philosophy to challenge even the most skeptical reader. This is SciFi/AI/SI at its best. Heads up – this may just be the future….Grady Harp, March 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.